Spartans Dominate the Wolverines to Win the Paul Bunyan Trophy [Opinion]

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Spartans Dominate the Wolverines to Win the Paul Bunyan Trophy

I’m not one to say I told you so but in this case I have to say it. I said all this week that Michigan State would defeat Michigan and that’s exactly what Michigan State did, defeating Michigan with a final score of 29-6.

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Although the Spartans didn’t play lights out in this game, you still have to give them credit starting with the defense. The defense won this game for the Spartans. I said in my pre-game article, Spartans would win if they could shut down the Michigan offense and they were able to do that and in an impressive fashion I might add. While Michigan’s offense isn’t the most elite, they still average over 400 yards of offense a game and this Spartan defense held them to 168 yards of total offense and no touchdowns.

Spartans front seven did a great job of exposing the Wolverines inconsistent offensive line and pressuring quarterback Devin Gardner. They also didn’t allow Gardner and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint to do anything on the ground, seeing that they Michigan finished the game with -48 rushing yards.

More importantly they shut down the passing game. It went unnoticed by some but the Spartan secondary did a great job of shutting down wide receiver Jeremy Gallon and tight end Devin Funchess, forcing Gardner to beat them with other receivers. They limited the big plays through the air and made the correct adjustments when needed. They also did a great job of shutting down any Michigan momentum when they stopped Michigan from scoring after quarterback Connor Cook was picked off. They even came up with a key interception to seal the deal late in the fourth quarter. Defensively, you couldn’t have asked for a better performance.

Offensively, the Spartans played solid but they could have played way better. While I do give credit to the Michigan defense for stepping up, Spartans really should have blown-out the Wolverines today. They won the battle of field position, constantly getting in the red-zone. However, Spartans didn’t take advantage of all their opportunities, think about it, they converted three field goals in this game putting 9 points on the board but if they had scored touchdowns instead, they would have put 21 points on the board instead, which makes a huge difference.

I also have to give credit to quarterback Connor Cook, who did a good job of winning this game for the Spartans. Looking past the stats, he did a good job of taking what the defense gave him, showed poise and leadership in some key moments. Although Michigan defense did a good job of containing the run early on, you still have to give running back Jeremy Langford a lot of credit. Langford finished the game with 128 rushing yards and a touchdown but that touchdown came in a clutch moment, basically putting the game out of reach for Michigan.

Overall, Michigan State proved what most people should already know, which is that they have an elite defense and while the offense isn’t great or elite, they still played solid in this game. It’s just scary to think they could have played much better if they had executed better in the red-zone and got in the end-zone more.

Now let’s talk Michigan Wolverines and keep in mind that this could take a while seeing that I have plenty to say but I will start off on a high note, if you really want to call it that. Michigan defense played solid, not great but solid. As I said earlier, Michigan State offense didn’t execute consistently like they were supposed to do but the Michigan defense still gave the Michigan offense plenty of opportunities to win this game. Michigan cornerback Raymond Taylor even came up with clutch interception in the third quarter but Michigan offense wasn’t able to capitalize on it.

However, while Michigan defense had some nice moments, they didn’t do everything they needed to do. They allowed quarterback Connor Cook to look like Andrew Luck today, throwing for 252 yards when he only averages 108 passing yards a game. On top of that, Michigan defense allowed Michigan State’s offensive drives to stay alive to many times on third down conversions, seeing that the Spartans converted 50% of their third down conversions. They did a solid job of keeping running back Jeremy Langford at bay in the first half but as the game went on, they let him loose and he earned some big plays. So while the Michigan defense had some nice moments, they still struggled in this game.

Which leads me to the offense, who are the real reason why Michigan lost this game. I will start with the offensive line since they were the main problem. I said in my pre-game article, it all started with the offensive line and they didn’t come through. I know plenty of people who want to blame this loss on quarterback Devin Gardner but he is not to solely blame for this loss. I have said constantly that Gardner can’t win by himself, when he did actually receive protection, he was able to execute passes. Keep in mind that the offensive line allowed him to be sacked SEVEN times in this game. The offensive line also didn’t open up any holes for running back Fitzgerald Toussaint seeing that the running game finished with -48 rushing yards.

Once again, no one stepped up in the receiving core, at times it was Gardner just missing his target or throwing a bad pass but there were plenty of times where Michigan receivers couldn’t get any form of separation or couldn’t catch the ball. The entire offense is to blame for this loss, not just one person or one group. However, I have to say I was irritated with the offensive play calling of by Al Borges as well, I felt he should have done a better job of calling plays so Gardner could get the ball out his hands quicker, especially since the offensive line was so horrible. I felt they could have called more screen plays or run some more draw plays or even did some quarterback roll-out plays. Then I felt the Michigan coaching staff didn’t do a good job of making any offensive adjustments.

Just a side note, quarterback Devin Gardner unfortunately couldn’t finish the game due to injury and I can’t say I am surprised. Once again I must repeat that Michigan uses Gardner too much in the run game. I have said before he should only run the ball 10-15 times a game, he rushed the ball 18 times in this game. Gardner may be a big strong body but his body can only take so much punishment every week, then you have to consider that he was hit hard and sacked SEVEN times in this game. It has yet to be disclosed on how badly injured Gardner is and hopefully it’s nothing serious but in the future Michigan needs to be cautious of how they use him in the run game.

Overall, I enjoyed the game. Michigan State should celebrate this win but they should remember that they still have plenty of work to do if they plan to compete for a Big Ten title. Michigan needs to take this loss personal and they need to learn from it and make the necessary adjustments. Still plenty of football left for both teams this season.

Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit

Listen to LBeasley’s Radio Show, “Sports Talk with L-Beasley” every Mon, Wed & Fri from 6-8pm (ET) on LBeasley.com

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